Four Guys Named Joe
In the summer of 1990, I had the honor of meeting one of my dad’s favorite players, “Meadowlark” Lemon. Lemon had grown up in Wilmington, North Carolina, the same town as Michael Jordan. Yes, that Michael Jordan. They lived on opposite sides of town but did attend the same Boys’ club. “Michael wanted to be like me,” said Meadowlark smiling.
My dad was a hard-working, no-nonsense kind of guy. Owning his own convenience store required him to work from 6 AM in the morning until 10 PM at night. There was very little time for play, and my brother and I rarely saw him when we were little. But, there were two things he always made sure we did together. Whenever the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus or the Harlem Globetrotters came to town, we were there. I vividly remember my dad laughing out loud at the antics of the Globetrotters. It may have been the first time I ever heard him laugh like that. Of course, Meadowlark was known as “The Clown Prince of Basketball,” a title he had earned over 26 years of traveling the globe and spreading laughter during 16,000-plus basketball games.
As I tell this story to Meadowlark, he smiles and nods his head in approval. I wanted to purchase his autograph and saw a stack of cancelled checks on his table. The company name in the top left hand corner said, “Four Guys Named Joe.” I asked him about those checks. He explained that in 1955, when Abe Saperstein signed him to a Harlem Globetrotter contract, Abe took Meadowlark to Chicago for a press conference. During the press conference, one of the reporters raised his hand and asked who is Meadowlark Lemon? “Abe placed his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘I can take Meadowlark Lemon and four guys named Joe and beat any team in the country.’ It was the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me,” said Meadowlark. “So, when I formed a company in June of 1984, I named it Four Guys Named Joe.” Meadowlark Lemon was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.